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The 3 South Pacific Sailing Destinations You Cannot Miss Out On

The idyllic South Pacific, with its palm-fringed islands, warm blue lagoons and lush tropical climate, has long been a top sailing destination among sailing and diving enthusiasts.

Think dramatic volcanic landscapes, dense rainforests, abundant coral reefs and friendly, hospitable islanders, and you start to get the glorious picture that is the beautiful South Pacific.

Ocean and Mountain

MILES AND MILES OF OCEAN PARADISE

The South Pacific is a vast region, covering over 11 million square miles and stretching from the top of Australia to the islands of Hawaii. The islands of the South Pacific are divided into three regions – Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia, each with its own languages and cultures.

Its calm, safe waters make the South Pacific an ideal sailing region for novice and experienced sailors alike. You will certainly be spoilt for choice when it comes to stunningly beautiful bays and protected coves in which to drop anchor and take in the dramatic natural scenery.

 

CROSSING THE PACIFIC TO REACH THE ISLANDS

You may be thinking of making your way to the region via Panama (many people sail to the South Pacific from the Caribbean Sea via the Panama Canal) or cruising to the islands after exploring the incredible Galápagos Islands (famous for inspiring Charles Darwin's theory of evolution).

Panama views

Whichever route you choose, with the right vessel, proper planning and sufficient preparation, sailing across the Pacific Ocean to the South Pacific by yacht is entirely possible.

The stunning South Pacific has been known to enchant and inspire visitors since time immemorial. It is a breathtakingly wild place of abundant plant, animal and marine life, dormant (and a few active) volcanoes, pristine palm-fringed beaches and coral reefs teeming with life.

In the warm, shallow lagoons, thatched huts perch serenely on wooden stilts above the translucent, turquoise water.

 

A DREAM DESTINATION FOR DIVING ENTHUSIASTS

Simply put, the tropical South Pacific is a marine paradise. Here you can sail at leisure from island to island, swim through underwater cave networks, dive with dolphins, turtles and manta rays and explore countless stunning beaches, bays and coves to your heart’s content.

The region is also home to some of the most untouched coral reefs on the planet, making it a bucket-list diving destination for snorkelling and scuba diving aficionados.

 

Here are 3 ultimate sailing spots in the South Pacific to explore by yacht or catamaran.

 

1. TAHITI

Located in the archipelago of the Society Islands, the independent French Polynesian island nation of Tahiti is renowned for its incredible natural beauty, resplendent marine life and dramatic landscapes.

Tahiti consists of 118 islands and atolls, of which Tahiti Island is the largest.

Famous for its two volcanic mountain ranges that form the shape of the letter 8 (or, according to local legend, a sea turtle), Tahiti Island boasts an awe-inspiring coastline with many gorgeous coral reefs and palm-fringed beaches, coves and bays.

Papeete Islands

DISCOVER TAHITI ISLAND

Drop anchor in the port capital OF Papeete (meaning “water basket”) and explore the food carts of the bustling Place Vai'ete. At the nearby Marché de Papeete, you can buy fresh seafood and vanilla beans, and should you like to purchase pearls as a South Pacific souvenir, you can do so at the Robert Wan Pearl Museum.

The island’s own 19th-century Notre Dame Cathedral with its famous red spire is also worth a visit.

Dramatic Tahiti island, with its unusual black-sanded beaches, turquoise lagoons and two extinct volcanoes is surrounded by beautiful white coral reefs, making it a sought-after snorkelling and scuba-diving destination.

The lush island-in-two-parts (Tahiti Nui being the larger and Tahiti Iti the smaller) is also incredibly rich in bird- and other animal life. Drop anchor in one of the many stunning coves or bays and venture inland, where forested mountains, lush valleys and sparkly waterfalls await.

Tahiti Island is a welcoming place and the perfect destination for getting acquainted with the magical French Polynesian island culture before setting out to explore the rest of the nation’s islands.

Sunshine over the mountains

SET SAIL FOR THE ISLANDS OF TAHITI

Drop anchor at lush Huahine island with its sacred temples, banana groves and vanilla orchards, then go on to explore gorgeous Moorea with its pastel-painted houses, hibiscus gardens and bright blue lagoon. You won’t regret adding remote Tetiaroa to your sailing itinerary. 

An island that is considered sacred by locals, Tetiaroa has a reputation for being the most beautiful island in the South Pacific and is known for its abundant birdlife and jaw-dropping natural beauty.

Mountain and ocean in Bora-Bora

EXPERIENCE BEAUTIFUL BORA BORA 

With its famous coral gardens, colourful tropical fish and abundance of marine life, Bora Bora island is said to be unrivalled in its beauty. It is also renowned for offering some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in the South Pacific.

Drop anchor in one of the island’s many secluded bays to enjoy an unforgettable day of diving and swimming with dolphins, turtles and manta rays.

 

2. THE MARQUESAS

Also known as the most remote islands in the world, the dramatic Marquesas is an island group lying 1 370 km northeast of Tahiti and 4 800 km from Mexico’s west coast.

Comprising a northern and a southern group of islands (12 in total), all but one of the islands (Motu One) are volcanic.

Blue ocean

A UNIQUE GROUP OF SOUTH PACIFIC ISLANDS

Wild, with awe-inspiring natural beauty, the Marquesas differ from the other French Polynesian islands, as they have no lagoons or coral reefs surrounding them. Here, volcanic mountains plunge right into the ocean, with deep valleys and lush jungles adding to the dramatic backdrop.

WATERFALLS, SNORKELLING AND BEACH EXPLORATION 

Drop anchor in Fatu Hiva’s stunning anchorage and set out to explore the island’s many gorgeous beaches and inland waterfalls from there. For a sublime snorkelling experience, drop anchor at Tahuata island, the smallest of the inhabited Marquesas Islands.

From Tahuata, you can set out for a day sail to the stunning Bay of Hanamoenoa. Anchor in one of the pristine bay’s four finger inlets and enjoy a blissful day of swimming, diving and beachcombing. 

Insider tip: as the region is so remote, Tahiti’s gendarme likes to keep track of sailing and yachting visitors to the area. Visitors are asked to check in upon arrival and departure from every island that has a gendarme office.

 

3. THE TUAMOTUS

This stunning archipelago of 76 islands and coral atolls covers a vast area, making it the largest chain of atolls on the planet. Also known as the Tuamotu Islands or the Tuamotu Archipelago, (Tuamotu meaning “distant islands”), the low coral islands cover an area roughly the size of western Europe.

The Tuamotus are famous for offering some of the most breathtakingly scenic cruising, diving and ocean exploration on the planet.

Whale jumping out of the ocean

Frolic with humpback whales near the palm-fringed islands of Rangiroa and Tikehau. Dive pristine coral reefs with sharks, turtles and manta rays at Fakarava, all the while taking in the exceptional natural beauty of this stunning coral wonderland.

A PLACE THAT KEEPS PULLING YOU BACK

The South Pacific is one of those sailing regions that is high up on every yachting enthusiast’s must-sail list, and with good reason. 

With its turquoise lagoons, teeming coral reefs, lush tropical climate and welcoming people, it is the kind of place that keeps pulling you back. If you’ve sailed the region once, you will understand why.

Ray deep in the ocean

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